March 25, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 11 NC State took a heartbreaking 4-3 walk-off loss in the second game of the weekend against No. 4 North Carolina to even the series, Sunday at Boshamer Stadium.
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, UNC (18-5, 6-2 ACC) clawed back to tie at 3-3 with two runs in the second and one in the third. The in-state battle remained deadlocked until the bottom of the ninth, when Tommy Coyle’s two-out single scored the game-winner from third to break a string of four-straight wins for the Wolfpack (16-5, 6-2 ACC) over the Tar Heels dating back to last season.
“A couple of things happened that broke the wrong way for us,” said NC State head coach Elliott Avent. “We had a slip in the outfield that turned into a big play for them. Maybe some frustration got the better of us to allow the next run. [North Carolina] scratched and clawed for that third run. Stallings fought to tie it with a two-out hit.”
Trea Turner led the Pack going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three stolen bases to improve to an NCAA-leading 24-for-24 on the season. John Gianis had State’s first RBI of the game, going 1-for-4 with a run scored. Jake Fincher continued to play well during the series, piecing together a 1-for-3 outing with one walk, a steal, and a run.
Carlos Rodon rallied from three Tar Heel runs in the first three innings to finish with a no decision on 6 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits for three runs, one earned, while striking out seven and walking two. Vance Williams (0-1) took the loss in relief, going 1 1/3 with one earned on one hit and two walks. Travis Orwig pitched the final 2/3, allowing one hit.
UNC ran through six pitchers, with Michael Morin (2-0) scoring the win over the final inning, allowing one hit. Starter Chris Munnelly left in the third, pitching two innings, giving up three runs, all earned, on four hits and three walks. Hobbs Johnson kept the Heels alive with four innings of one-hit ball, walking one and fanning five.
“Give a lot of credit to Johnson,” said Avent. “He controlled that outside half, and we just couldn’t muster anything off of him. We learned a lot today, and though it would have been nice to learn by getting the big hit, we’ll grow from this.”
State took the lead in the top second on Gianis’s double to the wall in right center. Ryan Mathews hit a one-out single to come aboard, and Gianis followed him with the RBI to make it 1-0. Bergquist followed with a walk, but became the second out when Fincher hit into a fielder’s choice behind him. With runners on the corners, Fincher stole second to put two in scoring position. Turner hit a sharp bouncer at first that took a strange hop to sail over the fielder’s head, scoring two more to extend the lead to 3-0. Turner stole second and third, but ended up stranded there.
UNC responded with a pair of runs in the bottom second, thanks to a pair of Wolfpack miscues. Rodon retired the first two batters of the inning easily, but a single through the left side helped Cody Stubbs reach. Shell McCain hit a blooper just beyond second to put two on. Matt Roberts hit a weak fly to shallow right, but Matt Bergquist slipped attempting to make the grab, scoring the first run. Parks Jordan dribbled a ball back to the pitcher, and Rodon’s throw to first pulled Andrew Ciencin off the base making it 3-2. Rodon rebounded to strike out UNC’s lead-off man Chaz Frank to end the inning.
The Tar Heels tied the game 3-3 in the third on a pair of doubles. Michael Russell led off the inning with a liner into the left field corner. After Coyle advanced him to third on a sac bunt, Jacob Stallings pushed him home with a grounder down the third base line for UNC’s second double of the inning. The Heels loaded the bases with two outs, but a grounder back to the pitcher ended the threat.
Johnson mowed down 12 of 13 Wolfpack batters, striking out five, after entering in the third. Rodon also settled in over the same stretch, retiring 11 of the remaining 12 batters he would face, with one double play in the sixth keeping that string alive.
In the eighth, the Wolfpack dodged a huge bullet, escaping from two-on, no-out jam with infield magic. McCain attempted to bunt the runners over, but Danny Canela leapt from his crouch in time to field the bunt and gun down the runner at third. The next ball went sharply to Turner at third, who touched the bag and fired across for the inning-ending double play.
State’s best chances came in the seventh and ninth, when Fincher ended up stranded on third and second, respectively. The Wolfpack also left a runner on first in the eighth.
UNC scored the game-winner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Williams walked Jordan on four pitches to lead off the inning, prompting State to bring in Orwig. Frank attempted to bunt with two strikes, but the pitch hung and hit him in the shoulder to put two on. Russell hit a chopper to Bergquist, who applied the tag on the runner at first, and fired in time for a double play. With two outs and Jordan on third, Coyle ripped an 0-1 pitch up the middle for a game-winning RBI single.
NC State looks to take the series in a nationally televised Monday night finale on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Radio coverage will be provided by 88.1 WKNC, fans can follow Twitter updates from @NCStateBaseball, and live stats will be available on GoPack.com.